Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Last Few Weeks in Pictures



Here are a few picture updates (mostly for the grandparents!). 


We've been dressing up for fall festivals. 


Working on school projects. 


Going on field trips.  


And trying out new recipes (these are our first ever homemade blueberry pancakes...no box or mix involved!). 



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Enjoying Good Books

I like to read. And I've read a lot of good books in the last few months. I was part of a book club over the summer that read several faith encouraging and faith challenging books like Nik Ripken's The Insanity of God.

I joined a book club this fall reading the Classics and I've read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as Jane Eyre for the first time ever, and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice  all over again.

I've been doing some family history and am reading a wonderful book of letters between my great-grandmother and great-grandfather when they were courting back in the late 1800s (written by my second cousin who I just found this fall). It's called If Nothing Happens... by Jennifer Elvgren.

Piggybacking off that family history research, I've read some very interesting books about colonial Massachusetts and colonial Connecticut (the research led me back to colonial days in Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts as well as two relatives who were on the Mayflower and another one who lived in Salem during the infamous witch trials!). I'm part-way through a book called Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall by Eve LaPlante.

I also read a book called A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert. It will change everything you thought you knew about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House series. If you loved those books, you'll be intrigued by this one! (one word of caution...it does contain some bad language and allude to some other things I wouldn't want my 9-year old reading for quite a few more years...so I'm not recommending it for children)

But today I picked up a book that I'm really excited about. Its short but oh so sweet and looks like it will be one of those "for such a time as this" type books. You know, the kind that plops down in your lap right when you really need it most! Its called Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full  by Gloria Furman. I've enjoyed reading Gloria Furman's posts on the Desiring God blog and the Gospel Coalition blog (she's definitely worth looking up!). So I bought her book too, and this morning I was encouraged with these words from p. 20...

"The gospel stands above and beyond all the most practical, family-friendly, or cost-effective philosophies of mothering. The good news of Jesus Christ is superior to our to-do lists and metaphorical mother-of-the-year trophies. This is because the greatest problem a mother has is not a lack of creativity, accomplishment, or skill, but her inability to love God and others as Jesus loves her (John 13:34). Without a mediator to speak for us, our sin will surely separate us from our holy God, both now and forever (Rom. 3:23)...God's irresistible grace binds our wandering heart to himself and frees us to love him back and overflow in love to our neighbors. We have been ransomed from sin and death and given eternal life by the precious blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18-19). And because of Christ's work on the cross, we can live God's way of love in our homes and in the world even as our hands are full (Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 4:17-6:18)."

and here's one more thought from the next page...

"We need to remember that each day is like a sigh that is too brief to measure, yet it is chock full of eternal significance. And into this brief sigh of an ordinary day, the Holy Spirit erupts and overflows with the love of God in Christ into our heart. This is astonishing."





Pics from the Fall

I can't believe its already October! We've done so many things that I could post here, but these are a few snapshots of our fall so far....

helping out around the house

soccer games 


every Saturday


school projects (Abraham Lincoln)


and more school projects (igloo)


sleeping in unusual places


playing in unusual places 


enjoying our new trampoline (a gift from some sweet friends whose boys are all grown-up...although based on this picture I'm not sure you ever really outgrow fun on a trampoline!) :) 


and getting some rest when we can sneak it in :)



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seeing The Rainbow

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home when it started to rain. It was kind of cloudy, but the sun was still shining brightly and the rain was coming in little patches as we drove. I told my five year old to keep her eyes open because this was the sort of weather where you might see a rainbow. 

A minute or two later she was pointing out her window proclaiming "There it is! There it is! I see the rainbow!" And sure enough, the faint colors of a rainbow were deepening across the western part of our sky. 

I guess we could label this the "Summer of the Rainbow". It sounds a little cheesy, but we saw three in less than three months this past summer. 

The first one was back in June. Jon and I had gone to a nice restaurant at the beach. It was an impromptu date night with a last minute babysitter for the older kids. Our then-6-month-old was with us at the restaurant and she sat quietly in her carseat for almost the entire meal. After dinner we thought it would be fun to go walk on the beach and maybe get a picture of our little one seeing the ocean for the first time. 

We found a parking spot, discussed whether or not we should pay the meter since parking would be free in 15 minutes, and headed for the sand. As we were walking toward the wooden walkway leading out to the ocean, a few drops of rain started to fall. Not enough to even call it a drizzle, but I was glad we'd opted not to pay for parking! We hurried up the stairs and took a few pictures with the ocean in the background. By that point the rain was coming and we were just about to turn to leave (without even setting foot on the sand) when I glanced at the pictures we had taken. As I scrolled through the quick pics on Jon's phone to see if any were "good enough" for the baby book I hope to make some day, I noticed a rainbow in the background.  


I looked up at the sky to see that there was indeed a full rainbow forming directly over the ocean. And I had almost missed it! 


I was so worried about the rain coming and not getting to walk on the beach and needing to get back to the car, that I almost didn't see the rainbow. 

And I thought about how that tends to happen to me. I get so caught up in the issue or the problem or the task that I miss the beauty behind the storm. I miss the promise that God is there and that He is faithful. I miss the point that there is more to life than just the appointments in my calendar or the items on my to-do list. 

And I realized that I need to see more rainbows. I mean, I need to notice them. Recognize them. God has been stamping rainbows in the sky to remind us of His faithful promise for thousands of years. So why do I sometimes have such a hard time remembering that He is good, and He is faithful, and He is working out His plan? Why do I fear and doubt and spin my wheels trying to get things done and work things out on my own? 

Lord, please teach me to stop. And to trust You. And to see the rainbow. 


"And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.'"  (Genesis 9:12-15a)





Thursday, July 10, 2014

Needing a Rescue

I want to be responsive to the warning signs...before I need a dramatic rescue!

A few nights ago I was at the pool with the kids. In the distance the sky looked a little dark. A couple times I thought I heard a very low rumble of thunder. But no one else said or did anything. The lifeguard didn't look concerned. A friend from church who helps run the pool was there, and she didn't look concerned. Everyone just continued on as they were. So I didn't worry. I stood in the pool, making funny faces at my six month old, trying to make her laugh out loud again. I looked at the sky a couple times because there was this nagging feeling that maybe that dark cloud way off was bringing a storm our way. But others kept on with a relaxed expression, so I did too.

And then the rain came. Huge, fat drops -- plopping rapidly and then pouring down suddenly. We got out and hurried to the covered tables to get out of the rain. As my kids speed-walked over to get their towels the thunder cracked loud and a bright flash of lightning zipped across the sky. The storm was on us. I had waited too long. I had missed...ignored actually...the warning signs of an approaching storm. And we had walked to the pool! I was stuck outdoors in a huge thunderstorm with four children and no car. As my four-year-old cried, and the older kids looked at me wide-eyed, I called my husband. But he was an hour drive away.

We threw our stuff in the bag and braved the soaking rain as we ran to the concrete bathroom area. Just us, the lifeguard, and the friend from church. The rain kept coming hard and fast and the lightning and thunder kept crashing loud and scary. I tried to smile and talk positively as my four-year-old kept crying. Why hadn't I responded to the warning? Dark sky, distant thunder, late afternoon in the coastal south. I know that signals a storm. I should not have been caught unaware. And yet here I was -- stuck at the pool with no ride and four scared children.

But this can happen so easily in our lives. Warning signs are on the horizon -- maybe its the third or fourth Sunday we've missed church because we were "just too tired". Maybe we haven't had time for a deep, intimate time with the Lord for days, then weeks, and now months. Maybe we're getting snappy with others. Easily frustrated. Edgy. But we write it off as just a little stressed; overwhelmed. It will get better. We'll be ok. Tomorrow we'll try harder. We hit the bed with an "I'm sorry, Lord. Please help me do better tomorrow." And we drift off to sleep. Day after day. Until our souls are dry. Our hearts are brittle. Our relationships are strained. We can't remember the last time we sat with the Lord and soaked in His Word. Soaked in His grace. Faced our sin head-on and repented fully. And now the storm is upon us. We've missed the warning signs and here we are. Temptation is no longer a distant rumble. A full-out wreckage seems to be raining down. The world, temptation, exhaustion, weakness. We try to keep smiling, but what we really want to do is sit down and cry like a four-year-old. We try to press on; try to pull it together. But the wind is blowing and our towel keeps getting wet. The storm is all around us and we have such a long walk home. Off in the distant sky we see some light and we know the storm should end soon. We'll just ride it out. We'll stay where we are. We'll hope for the best. But each time we think its almost passed, there's that thunder again. Still surprisingly close.

And that's when it happens. The rescue.

For us at the pool it was my eighty year old neighbor. Right at the height of the storm he popped his head around the corner of our hideout and relief filled my heart. Before he could say "Anyone need a ride?!", I already knew why he was there. He came for me. He came to rescue me and my kids. To drive us home in the storm. In the moment I don't know how he knew, I'm just thankful that he did. At that moment I'm only aware of the fact that we really are going to be ok. We have a ride and we all pile in -- stroller, pool bag, four kids and me. I don't hear anymore thunder. I don't feel the rain. We're talking, laughing, thanking him. The details start unfolding. My husband had called. Said we were stuck at the pool. And so he came. We were fine. No one was crying anymore. We had been rescued.

And so the picture becomes clear. God does this for us...spiritually, physically, emotionally. He gives us the warning signs when sin is too close. When we start to drift and temptation becomes so...tempting. God allows the thunder and the dark sky to prod us out of the pool and home to safety. But if we ignore it -- if we stay where we are and suddenly find ourselves in the storm of sin beating down upon us -- He won't leave us alone. He will -- He has! -- He does send a rescuer. God provides a way out and a way home.

Jesus offers the most dramatic rescue of all and saves us from all our sin. He conquered death and hell. He rescued our souls. And He continues to rescue us everyday. Even once we are saved, He still works to rescue us from the temptation that would seek to lead us astray. Praise God! Thank you Lord for every dramatic rescue! Let's repent and follow Him today.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (I Corinthians 10:13)

"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Grace Detectives

One of my goals this summer is to READ MORE! I have an entire bookshelf full of books I hope to read. Some I bought and never started. Some I started and never finished. One such book is Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Obviously (from the title) its a book on parenting. Tonight I read this passage from that book...
"In the same way, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us see our children like he does, with great hope and love. We can ask him to help us be "grace detectives," to be more aware of how the Lord is working in their life than in how they are failing." (p. 136)
Isn't it interesting how the negative seems to stick with us? We remember someone's negative comment far longer and far better than a whole string of positive ones. We fret over the negative news far more than we rest with the positive. And the negative behavior of our children seems to get center stage far more often than the positive behavior. At least for me, that is. When I review my day I remember the meltdown in the grocery store or the six times I had to say "get out of the pool now" before anyone actually came. I think about the extra dirty clothes because someone didn't "sit on the potty and just try" when I told them to. My mind seems to highlight the bad behavior while ignoring the fact that everyone put on their seatbelts without being told. I don't notice that no one ran from me in the parking lot or that no one cried and collapsed into an emotional puddle when all three videos we got from the library said "disc is dirty" when we tried to play them. Its like I miss the good behavior. Or take it for granted.   
But I want to look for the positive. I want to be more aware of how the Lord is working and changing and shaping my kids. I want to focus more on how far they've come. Last night Jon was helping me fix dinner and the kids were "cleaning up" in the playroom. I asked one child to do something and she responded immediately (with a positive tone) by saying "ok, I'll do it next". Jon looked at me, set down the knife and said "I'll be right back". Then he went to the child and said "Thank you for responding so nicely. That shows a heart of obedience and maturity. I'm proud of you for doing that."
In that moment he was being a "grace detective". He spotted a rare response and focused on it. He put a magnifying glass over the moment and zeroed in on it, enlarging and drawing attention to the positive.
How often does that happen? I mean, any of that? Its only by God's grace that a sinful child is transformed into a child of God. Its only by God's grace that holiness and obedience are worked into our lives. And its only by God's grace that a sinful parent is changed into a Christ-like example. Its only by God's grace we can parent with patience. Its only by God's grace that we can discipline with love and tenderness.
As God is doing a work of grace in my life, I want to also be aware of His work in my children's lives. I want to be a detective. I want to "set down the knife" and notice the miracle of sanctification as it occurs in the lives of those around me. Especially my children.
Lord, help me today to recognize your work in my life. You have brought me so far, but in no way have I arrived. You alone allow me to learn and grow and mature in my faith. You alone mold me into the image of Christ. As you work this same miracle out in my children's lives HELP ME TO NOTICE! Use me to encourage them. Use me to spur them on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Make me a grace detective.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Two More Months in Photos


Here are a few pictures from the last couple months. Our sweet friend Rebecca came to visit...


Our boy turned 7...


we lived "real life" (notice the laundry in progress!)...


we embraced the warmer spring weather...


our littlest one learned to roll over...



and we celebrated baby's first Easter... 




Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Really Matters


The weekend sort of snuck up on me. I’m not completely sure why.  Maybe it was the busy schedule that forced me into a frantic drive to Michael’s at 7:50 the night before a school project was due last week. Or it could be the back-to-back company or the week Jon was out of town for five days. But somehow, three weeks of April have flown out from under us and here we are at Easter weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t completely forget…I’m only a few days behind on a 40-day pre-Easter Bible reading plan I’ve been doing. :) I just sort of forgot some of the preparation details. Like on Thursday when I was shocked to find out that Target was completely out of Original flavor Starburst jelly beans, forcing me to settle for Tropical instead this year. Or Friday when I was getting my hair cut and the conversations I kept overhearing reminded me that usually people dye eggs at Easter. And hunt for them. But, I thought I might have pink eye, and wasn’t feeling that great, so I decided right then and there not to worry about that.

This year, we didn’t dye eggs. We didn’t pick out new springy clothes to wear to church. We didn’t even pull the Easter baskets out of the attic until so late Saturday night that I’m not sure we’ll use them. The Easter “piles” I made are looking acceptable and I don’t know if I want to reorganize them into a basket. And we aren’t really having any sort of special Easter lunch. Right now, we might just have spaghetti (the meat is defrosting as we speak).

But the beauty of letting go of the traditional things like Easter grass and new dresses, is that I’m left with only the basics this Easter. And the basics are all that really matters. Who cares if my kids look picture perfect at church tomorrow? Who cares if they love their Easter baskets or get to eat dyed eggs for breakfast?

I’m reminded that only ONE thing matters this Sunday, and every day. Do my kids know Jesus? Do they know that He came to earth to live and die in their place? Do they know He rose again, conquering sin and death? Do they know what we’re really celebrating?

And, on a more personal level…do I remember what we’re celebrating? Do I remember what I’m here for? Do I remember that life is about glorifying God and following Christ? Am I living as if I really believe that He is the most important thing? Am I telling anyone else about Him? Sometimes we have to peel away the “traditional” stuff to remember what its really all about.

I was thinking about that tonight especially, because tonight I started reading a new book. It’s a sort of memoir of a nonChristian woman’s life as she faces cancer and family struggles and parenting two young girls. And its possibly the most depressing book I’ve ever read. Because she clearly does not know the Lord. Does not know that His death conquered the sin and despair that is beating her down. She’s trying to laugh and love her way through life…stand up tall, put on a strong face, cling tight to friends and family when she needs to be held up.

But only Christ can do that. Only Christ can give us hope in the hard times. Only Christ can give our lives purpose and meaning. Otherwise, our lives look like a memoir of emotions…tossed from happiness to pain to determined struggle or despair. My heart breaks for this author, and I’m reminded anew that life is nothing without Christ. Life is tragedy without the cross.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4).

Amen. Thank you Jesus. May I tell the world. And may I live in such a way that shows a lost and dying world there is more to Easter than baskets and egg hunts, pretty dresses and family meals!    


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perspective

I've got nothing.

Nothing to offer.
Nothing to share.
At least, it feels that way...sometimes. I mentioned before that the last two months have been a blur. And when life is a blur, and you're just making it through from one feeding to the next, from one kid's school project to the next, from one set of company to the next, from one load of laundry to the next...you can quickly forget what really matters. You can miss out on the joys of life.  

You find yourself irritated and you're not even always sure why.

Its in these moments that I find I need a little perspective. And maybe a little sleep (I turned on the dryer today with NO CLOTHES IN IT! I took that as an obvious clue that I either needed a little nap or a little caffeine quick).

I've found myself saying "Everyone be quiet. I need to think" quite a lot lately. So much, in fact, that one of my kids finally asked me "Mom? What do you need to think about?"

But tonight I'm reminded that my "light and momentary troubles" (2 Corinthians 4:17) are just that...light and momentary. Some burdens are lighter than others and some moments are longer than others, but from the perspective of eternity...they are all light and momentary just the same. And that is the perspective I need. That is the perspective that brings laughter from pain and joy through frustration.

Our purpose here on earth is to bring God glory. To make much of Him. To point others to Him. To reflect Jesus Christ to everyone we meet. That is what matters, and that is the perspective we must have as we go through each day. That is the perspective that allows us to "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

And when we forget, or struggle or full-out fail...I thank God that He renews us day by day! (2 Cor. 4:16)  

 


"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)


Two Months in Pictures

The last two months have flown by in a blur, but here's a little picture update on what we've been up to around here!

Jon's sister and her family came to visit...



My sister and her family came to visit...



We celebrated the life and mourned the death of Jon's sweet grandmother. Her funeral offered us all a tender time of reflection on God's gift of grace through salvation in Jesus Christ. This time also allowed us the blessing of several unexpected hours with Jon's family...




We've had some late nights...


We've taken turns napping...



and at times we've literally been climbing the walls!


But its been fun!














Monday, January 20, 2014

Welcoming Baby!


For the last several weeks we've been welcoming our sweet new baby into our family and into our lives. She is already greatly loved by all! These are just a few pictures of her first three weeks with us.